Creating a healthy and balanced environment for your child to SOAR — emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually — revolves around four interconnected elements that I touched upon in last Wednesday’s blog post and go into greater detail below. These are the key components to creating healthy habits for healthy kids when it comes to nutrition, exercise and other elements of whole-person health:
1) Support. Children are very sensitive to adult nuances. They interpret the moods and attitudes of the adults around them and make judgments based upon their own understanding. Sometimes those judgments are center-straight, and sometimes they are skewed by a child’s misperception. That you consistently convey a positive attitude of love, acceptance, and support for your child and for those healthy changes is therefore vitally important.
You must be your child’s greatest advocate. All of the good you are trying to do can be undone if your child perceives there is something wrong or unlovable about him or her which is necessitating these changes. He or she receives enough negative pressure from the culture and environment without feeling deficient at home. Please remember that living a healthy life benefits everyone and should not be portrayed as a punishment for being overweight, inactive, or unhealthy.
2) Optimism. You child strives to live up to your expectations. If those expectations aren’t very high, your child interprets the reason as your belief that he or she is not capable. While you don’t want to set the bar so high that no one could reach it, you don’t want to set it so low that nothing is accomplished. How do you maintain a balance for yourself between too high and too low of expectations? By consistently presenting opportunities for positive change while praising your child for every victory, no matter how small.
And remember, as you provide this environment for your child, you’re also providing it for yourself. Don’t be afraid to expect good things from you! As a family, you are all in it it together. As a parent, you are in the driver’s seat in so many ways. I encourage you to believe in yourself, believe in your child, and believe that God is with you.
3) Active achievement. One of the primary areas in which we need to encourage our child’s achievement is in the realm of physical activity. Your child needs to get out and play, move, exercise, and have fun physically. This is the only way he or she can acheive a healthy, active physical lifestyle. You’ll need to make adjustments to your own schedule and habits in order for this to happen. As much as possible, you need to spend active time with your children. As an active, vibrant person yourself, you can motivate your child to desire the same.
4) Responsibility. Children are the best judges of when they are hungry. They are not, however, the best judges of what to eat when they are hungry. High-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar food and drink sing out a siren song to today’s children.
As a responsible parent, your job is not to forbid certain types of food but rather to help your child understand healthy food and nutrition. From this basis, your child can make positive food choices whether you are present or not. And as you choose what you will have available and prepare for your child, you help create a palate that appreciates healthy food and is able to withstand the constant temptation of unhealthy choices. Taking responsibility in this area will provide a wonderful model for the other, nonfood areas of growing up.
SOURCE: Introduction to Healthy Habits, Healthy Kid: A Practical Plan to Help Your Family by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.
Review Blog Schedule (every weekday devoted to excerpts from a different book by Dr. Jantz)